Saturday, December 14, 2013

IRREVERSIBLE (2003)

Abandon All Hope! Ye Who Enter Here!

WARNING: If you have ever been the victim of rape, do not go see Gasper Noe's brutal "Irreversible." If you have a strong stomach, "Irreversible" may be the most challenging film you will ever see. I found my head and chest starting to pound with anxiety as I watched the disorienting first hour of this film. It may be some time before I am able to fully digest the experience. I'm sure that I will never be able to erase the images that Noe seared into my psyche.

One of the most infamous images from the Vietnam War was of the Chief of Police of Saigon executing a Viet Cong soldier by shooting him point blank in the head with a pistol. The photograph and filmed footage of the event was used to illustrate the brutality and futility of that Asian war. It wasn't until 15 years after the end of the war that I found out the story behind the photo. The Saigon cop had a boyhood friend who became an officer in the South Vietnamese Army. Growing up, both men loved the same girl. The army officer ended up marrying her. They had many children. The beau who wasn't chosen remained close to his friend and sweetheart. He was Godfather to their children. When the Officer went off to war, the Cop looked after his family. One day he got a call. The family he loved, the family of his lifelong, boyhood friend had been savagely murdered. The woman he loved from afar had been raped. The children he watched over were dead. The man who did it was caught in the act. The cop was overcome by grief by the brutality of what he saw. He walked up to the man who did this to his loved ones and put a bullet in his head. Of course, the cop's act was brutal, but it was more humane than what was done to the woman and kids he loved. Right? Wrong? That's up to God to decide. The question is, was the execution of that VC and the brutality the image suggested any less palpable after finding out what led up to it? "Irreversible" deals with this subject.

"Irreversible" is told in reverse order. The film moves from chaos, to order to infinity. Benoit Debie and Gasper Noe's photography is disorienting. The first images on the screen are what you would usually see last. The credits are run in reverse, from bottom to top. I was thrown even more off kilter by the fact I don't read French. Halfway through the credits, they skew sideways and then the film explodes into a journey that may have you gasping for air or wishing you had taken Dramamine. Debie and Noe's camera twirls and rotates as if it was filmed by an epileptic on a ride at the fair. After several moments of hectic shots of a dark alley, flashing lights and the darkest abyss, Noe settles on two bums in a fleabag hotel. They talk about perversion. The camera leaps into space again. After a shorter twisting journey, Noe takes us into the bowels of a Gay S/M club called The Rectum. The police have been called. Two men are taken out of the club. Marcus (Vincent Cassel) is on a stretcher. Pierre (Albert Dupontel) is in handcuffs. Again the camera leaps into the unknown. With each leap, we are taken back in time for fifteen minutes or so.

Ten minutes into "Irreversible" we come to one of the most vile and violent scenes ever committed to film. Marcus and Pierre search The Rectum for a guy called La Tenia (Jo Prestia). The camera reveals glimpses of naked men moaning in pain induced ecstasy not seen since Sodom and Gomorrah. Marcus and Pierre finally find La Tenia. La Tenia is murdered by Marcus and Pierre. Or did they kill another by mistake? I'm still trying to figure out how the murder was filmed. It looks as if the man is actually killed. The murder is done in one shot, and it takes a long time. This isn't the most brutal scene in the film.

"Irreversible" moves back in time to reveal why these two savages have done what they did. Turns out, they are the civilized men. Both men were at a party with Alex (Monica Bellucci: Tears of the Sun). Marcus is Alex's current lover. Pierre is a former lover. Alex left the party for reasons I won't reveal. On her way home, she is attacked, raped and beaten by La Tenia. By the time this happens, the camera work has become less hectic. The rape takes up about ten-minutes of screen time. The single shot scene is stationary and unflinching. The assault on your senses is overwhelming. There were only a few people at the matinee. No one left. I imagine some would. The rape is followed by a beating that leaves Alex in a coma. It is no wonder Marcus and Pierre did what they did to La Tenia.

As brutal as the first hour of "Irreversible" is, the last 40 minutes are also disturbing. Little by little, Noe carries us back through Marcus and Alex's day. The film begins, or should I say ends, with a blissful scene of Marcus and Alex waking up, in love. The camera is steady and peaceful, like the characters. Knowing what horror awaits these characters makes their last few moments of bliss painful to watch.

What is the point of the film? I'm still trying to figure it out. I immediately thought of the photo from the Vietnam War. Is the image less shocking when you know why the act took place? If Noe trying to provoke thought and discussion about revenge, he succeeds. "Irreversible" is not rated. If it were, it would definitely receive an NC-17. This film is not for the naive, impressionable youth, people on anti-psychotic medication or victims of rape. If you are in a relationship with a victim of rape, I wouldn't recommend this film either. You will not be able to shake the images from your mind. As a criminal defense attorney, I think I will have a hard time representing someone accused of rape in the future. So powerful are Noe's images. Like Pandora opening the box, once you view this film, the effects are irreversible.

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (2001)

Y Tu Mama Tambien: Unrated Edition (2001)
Movie rating: 8/10
DVD rating: 7/10
Release Date: October 22, 2002
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Rating: NR
Distributor: MGM
List Price: $26.98
Disc Details
Special Features:  Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Commentary by cast members
Featurette: Making-of "Y Tu Mama Tambien"
Short film by witer Carlos Cuaron: "Me la Debes"
Deleted scenes
Theatrical trailer
TV Spot
Video Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
[SS-DL]
Languages: Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English.
Captions: Yes
Casing: 1-Disc Keep Case

Review
"Y Tu Mama Tambien" is yet another example of the realistic and straightforward way foreign filmmakers deal with the topic of sex. "Y Tu Mama Tambien" is a serious coming of age film disguised as a teen sex romp. Below is EI writer Joseph Farrell's in-depth review of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" for its theatrical release.

If you don’t become aroused by the opening scene in Y Tu Mamá También, a Mexican film directed by Alfonso Cuaron, check your pulse, you might be dead. And, ladies and gentlemen, we are not talking the Hollywood kind of erotic scene that takes place covertly under covers with an occasional glimpse of a buttocks or a breast in a darkly-lit bedroom. This is fun, rollicking sex with no covers, bright lights, and followed up by a playful conversation between one of the film’s protagonists, Tenoch (played by Diego Luna) and his girlfriend, who will soon leave for Italy. The film’s erotic fun and humor is contagious and leaves you looking around every corner for the next sexy scene.

Later, we meet Tenoch’s friend, Julio (played by Gael Garcia Bernal), whose girlfriend is also leaving Mexico for Italy over the summer. Tenoch and Julio are17 year-old boys bound by their comparative wealth, adolescent humor, and teen-age preoccupation with sex. The movie begins innocuously with the shenanigans of Julio and Tenoch and their care-free existence centered around sex, drugs, farts jokes, and masturbation. The two actors play their roles with much verve making También a more sophisticated, steamier version of American Pie.

Julio is the middle-class son of a divorcée while Tenoch is the wealthy son of the Mexican Secretary of State and his superficial wife. At a party for the politically well-connected, we meet Luisa, Tenoch’s cousin’s wife, a sultry 28-year old Spaniard played Maribel Verdu. When the drunk boys clumsily invite Luisa on a trip to a fictional beach called Heaven’s Mouth, no one expects Luisa to take the offer or the boys seriously. When Luisa later accepts the invitation, the movie shifts from the Mexico City locale and the countryside as the trio embark on their trip.

The sexual tension created by the presence of this older, beautiful woman juxtaposed against the fact that the young men both care about her and are somewhat intimidated by her sets the stage for this trip. The trip will redefine the characters and their relationships in ways unforeseen by all. Upon leaving Mexico City, the two young men still joke raucously, and Louisa joins in the bawdiness. And yet, as must inevitably happen in all relationships, the bubble of superficiality bursts and the characters must come to grips with a world where sex and sexuality take on a larger, more serious role. Sex can be fun and liberating, but it can also be mature and even threatening.

Garcia Bernal and Luna play their roles superbly, able to carry the bawdy, adolescent energy easily on their shoulders and yet able to play the sensitive scenes that occur during the trip to the beach just as convincingly. While the two actors play their roles seamlessly, Verdu struggles with some of her more vulnerable scenes. However, her sexiness and energy in the humorous and erotic scenes more than make up for this shortcoming.

Aside from the story, the movie is as much about Mexico as it is about the sexual tension of the trip with Louisa. When Tenoch and Julio stroll through a huge shopping mart or when Luisa tries to evaluate her personality based on a multiple-choice Cosmo-type questionnaire in a doctor’s waiting room, it seems as if we are in the U.S.A. However, we later see oblique references to the leftist demonstrations, the spoliation of the countryside through development, the simple Catholicism and kindness of the poor, and the indifference of the rich and powerful. While the eroticism and humor are the engines that drive the train of this film, the train is Mexican, beautiful and complex, even if flawed.

Cuaron puts together a masterpiece with witty dialogue, a tight script, excellent performances by Gael Bernal and Luna, and by presenting a kaleidoscope of Mexican culture. Put this film at the top of your list. You will find a lot more than sophomoric humor and erotic energy in this subtle and thought-provoking film.

The Disc
Great movie. Good picture and better sound. Hit-and-miss extras.

Picture Quality: 7/10
I noticed a few artifacts along the way. The picture also looked a little washed out with fading around the edges during the brighter scenes. No delineation problems with the darker colors. Great flesh tones.

Sound Quality: 9/10
I speak very little Spanish, so it is hard for me to judge the sound. The music sounded fine. I wouldn't have known if the dialogue were incomprehensible because I relied on the subtitles to get through the movie. No distortion in the low ranges. Seemed to be a nice balance between the high and low ranges.

Menu: 10/10
Very cool design. Easy to navigate. No Easter Eggs found although there are plenty of places they could have hidden some.

Extra Features: 6/10
The commentary track is provided by the two male leads and another actor who played their drugging buddy early in the film. I couldn't tell you if it was a good commentary track or not because it is in Spanish. They guys were laughing during the film's opening sex scene. Subtitles would have been nice, but probably cumbersome. Oh well. I took 9 semesters of Spanish at Memphis State. I guess I should have paid more attention!

There are three deleted scenes. One deals with Julio getting a handjob from his girlfriend in the backseat of her parent's car as the parents drive her to the airport. The second scene involves the old man who gives Julio his hat when their car broke down. The old man dances. The third scene involves the three leads driving down the road stoned out of their minds. None of the scenes would have added anything to the final film had they been left it.

The "Making Of' featurette is subtitled! The 22-minute featurette provides some funny insights into the making of the movie. It includes interviews with the cast and crew.

The DVD also includes a short TV spot and a lengthy theatrical trailer.

The coolest extra is the 8-minute short film by writer Carlos Cuaron. "Me La Debes" involves a mother, father and daughter all having sex with someone they shouldn't in the same house at the same time. A funny little film.

The Final Word:
Even with the hit-and-miss extras, "Y Tu Mama Tambien" is worth adding to your permanent DVD library.

CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)

City Of The Dead (1960)
Movie rating: 7/10
DVD rating: 9/10
Release Date: October 23, 2001
Running Time: 1 hour 18 minutes
Rating: NR
Distributor: VCI Home Entertainment
List Price: $24.99
Disc Details
Special Features:  Widescreen format.
Restored uncut European version.
Chapter selection.
Commentary by director John Llewellyn Moxey.
Commentary by actor Christopher Lee.
Interview with Christopher Lee.
Interview with John Llewellyn Moxey.
Interview with Venetia Stevenson.
Theatrical trailer.
Cast and crew biographies.
2 minutes of footage deleted from the U.S. version.
Production stills.
DVD cover printed on both sides with two different cover designs.
Video Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1)
[SS-DL]
Languages: English (PCM Mono)
Subtitles: English.
Closed Caption: Yes
Sides: 1-Disc Keep Case

Review
"City of the Dead" (released in the US as "Horror Hotel") is an atmospheric occult thriller that overcomes its sparse budget with creepy photography and lighting, good performances by most of the cast and an economic running time which leaves very little time for the audience to lose interest. Christopher Lee stars as Professor Allan Driscoll, a college professor teaching a class in the history of witchcraft. What happens when his beautiful blond student, Nan Barlow (Venitia Stevenson) travels to the New England town of Whitewood for a research project?

The film opens in Whitewood as Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) is burned at the stake in 1692. As the crowd of puritans gather round to watch, her lover, Jethro Keane (Valentine Dyall) stands at the back calling on Lucifer to help the burning witch. Lucifer answers Jethro's prayer. Elizabeth feels the presence of the dark master and curses the town. May they forever live under the curse of Satin.

Flash forward to modern times. Professor Driscoll is relating the story of Whitewood. Nan is fascinated by the subject. She wants to do further research. Professor Driscoll gives her the name of the woman who runs the Raven's Inn in Whitewood. Nan's boyfriend, Bill (Tom Naylor) is against her going, as is her brother Richard (Denis Lotus), a colleague of Professor Driscoll's. However, Nan is headstrong and will not be deterred.

Once in Whitewood Nan realizes that the town's people are not quite normal. The village looks as if it stayed locked in the 17th century. What Nan doesn't realize is that once a year, on Candelmas Eve, the townspeople must sacrifice a human and drink their blood in order to continue to live for eternity. Like another movie from 1960 (Psycho), "The City of the Dead" has its heroine meet an early demise in a small town hotel. "The City of the Dead" actually pre-dated "Psycho." The remainder of the movie concerns Richard and Bill trying to locate Nan. The plot has many more twists and turns which I will leave to you to discover.

This was the feature film debut of John Moxley. Actually it was one of the few theatrical feature films Mr. Moxely directed. Moxley went on to become one of the most prolific television directors of the last 40 years. He also directed "The Night Stalker." "Foster and Laurie," and the original TV pilot film "Charlie's Angels"! What Mr. Moxley lacked in budget on "City of the Dead" he made up for with the best use of mist you will find in any genre movie. Moxley direction is the reason that "City of the Dead" works so well.

My 15 year old daughter has become very jaded (despite my best interests) about watching black and white films. She watched this movie alone and didn’t want to sleep that night. I’ve allowed her to see many more graphic horror films. I was surprised that this little gem from British Lion films cut through her veneer and scarred her. Maybe she is starting to appreciate movies for more than the special effects. "The City of the Dead" is a spooky movie perfect for a late night on the couch with the lights out.

The Disc
Excellent extras, very good movie, good sound. Worth the price of admission. Further proof that VCI is working hard to become a leader in the DVD market. While the major studios are releasing older movies with little or no extras, VCI is running the extra mile to produce top notch interviews and commentary tracks for some great films. The fact that VCI isn't a major studio with tons of archived material at their fingertips makes this achievement all the more amazing. There are folks out there like myself who appreciate this.

Picture Quality: 9/10
The great atmospheric black and white photography looks as good as it did back in 1960 thanks to a great restoration job aided by British Lion Films.

Sound Quality: 7/10
It's mono. It sounds good, but it sounds a little flat in comparison to modern surround sound tracks.

Menu: 9/10
Great design with the emphasis on creepy! Easy to navigate. Animated menus.

Extra Features: 10/10
One of these days, I hope to be able to interview Christopher Lee. He is my all time fantasy and horror film actor. This disk is a God send for Christopher Lee fans in that you get a 45 minute interview which is excellent. The interview rocks because there is minimal input from the interviewer and more of Mr. Lee talking about his career. You also have a commentary track by Mr. Lee.

The commentary track by director Moxley is also quite good. His interview (30 minutes) is hit and miss. I wish there had been more time devoted to his long career.

OK interview with Venitia Stevenson. She is still hot 40 years later.

The trailer and photo gallery are good.

I love the dual sided DVD cover. I couldn't find a JPEG of the reverse side to illustrate the review. The reverse side is a sordid "pulp magazine" type poster of a beautiful woman in danger. Very cool period artwork.

The Final Word:
A must have for Christopher Lee fans. I recommend the purchase of this DVD to show VCI that their efforts to meet the DVD needs of fans of older films are being appreciated. No company I know of puts such an effort in the production of older film DVDs. More extras than some major studios put into their new release disks! Also see VCI's "The Mark" for an example of this dedication to movie fans.

COMPLETE MUSKETEERS, THE: THE THREE MUSKETEERS & THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1973/74)

The Complete Musketeers: The Three Musketeers & The Four Musketeers (1973, 74)
Movie rating: 10/10
DVD rating: 10/10
Release Date: February 4, 2003
Running Time: 3 hours 33 minutes
Rating: PG
Distributor: Anchor Bay
List Price: $34.98
Disc Details
Special Features:  Widescreen anamorphic and full frame formats
Chapter selections
2 Disk Set
New Documentary: "The Saga of the Musketeers Part One & Two"
The Making "The Three Musketeers"
Theatrical trailers
TV Spots
Radio Spots
Poster and still galleries
Talent bios with selected filmographies
Video Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Full frame (1.33:1 Pan and Scan) [SS-DL]
Languages: English (Dolby Digital 2.0) Mono
Subtitles: English for the hearing impared.
Captions: Yes
Casing: 2-Disc Folding Collector's Case

Review
Anchor Bay has answered the prayers of movie fans worldwide. Anchor Bay's collector's set "The Complete Musketeers" brings two of Richard Lester's three "Musketeer's" films to a new generation. The name "The Complete Musketeers" is not completely true as director Lester reunited his all star cast for "The Return of the Musketeers" in 1989.

These epic films were actually filmed to be one film. "The Three Musketeers" was to be released as a major roadshow picture with an intermission. Instead, the Salkinds (the film's producers) decided to cut the film into two films. The good news is, both films are excellent. Some fans of older film versions of the Dumas classic resented the comic elements found in this film. Those who have read the book will find that Lester's version is the closet adaptation of the book into film.

"The Three Musketeers" follows the adventures of the young D'Artagnan (Michael York) as he travels to Paris to follow in his father's footsteps by joining King Louis XIII's (Jean-Pierre Cassel) Musketeers. On his first day in Paris, the brash young man manages to insult three of the best Musketeers in separate incidents. All three challenge D'Artagnan to duels. His first duel is with Athos (Oliver Reed). Athos's two companions are Aramis (Richard Chamberland) and Porthos (Frank Finlay). They are amazed to find that Athos is dueling the same man they are scheduled to fight. Before Athos and D'Artagnan can start, the Cardinal's Guards arrive to arrest them. What follows is one of the best sword fight scenes of all time. D'Artagnan fights along side the three Musketeers as they fight the six guards of Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston).

Once Lester introduces the four main characters, the film wastes no time developing the intricate plot. The first film deals with Cardinal Richelieu's machinations to uncover Queen Anne's (Geraldine Chaplin) affair with Britain's Prime Minister, the Duke of Buckingham (Simon Ward). The Cardinal's main agents are the deadly swordsman the Count de Rochefort (Christopher Lee) and the seductive Milady de Winter (Faye Dunaway). Protecting the Queen's honor are the Musketeers aided by the Queen's seamstress, Constance de Bonancieux (Raquel Welch) and D'Artaqgnan's man servant Planchet (Roy Kinnear). I'll leave further details of the plot to you to discover.

Lester's films show just how dirty and filthy life in the early 1600s was. The divide between the haves and have-nots was very wide. Both films have excellent production values: great costumes and sets. Having captured the look of 1625, Lester created some of the most memorable set pieces in swashbuckling history. In addition to the outstanding sword fights, the films boast a bawdy script and wonderful performances throughout. The innovative style Lester showed in his Beatle's films "A Hard Days Night" and "Help!" are evident in these two adventure films.

I have always wanted to see the two films united as originally intended. Maybe someday. Until that day, this DVD collection is the best way to see these Richard Lester classics. "The Four Musketeers" was released one year after the first film. The movie continues the political plotting by Richelieu in his attempt to wrest power from the bumbling, cuckolded King Louis. The second film is darker in tone. France is at civil war. England is planning to send ship to support the rebellion. Main characters die. The second half doesn't reach the comic tone set in the first half, but it is still an excellent film.

The Disc
Great movies, picture, sound and extras.

Picture Quality: 10/10
These DVD were mastered from the original vault materials. The films were lovingly restored and transferred. No artifacts were noticed. There were a couple of delineation problems. Nothing too distracting. I only noticed because I was looking hard to find them. The "tennis" scene has some problems in the shadows.

The colors are rich and well saturated. Excellent flesh tones. Nice definition of detail in the shadows for the most part. I saw both films in the theater way back when. These transfers look as good if not better than what I remember from the 70s.

Sound Quality: 10/10
These soundtracks would have been great converted to stereo. Oh well, I guess I'll have to wait. As they stand, the soundtracks are as rich and lush as a Mono track can bee. Both films are filled with audible comments by extras and crowd members. Many of these are comic gems. All the dialogue comes across crystal clear. The clangs of crossed swords are also excellent. Lalo Schifrin's core captures the epic, adventurous tone of the film. His score is blended with the dialogue and sound effects splendidly. Nice balance between the ranges. Both highs and lows are rich and full.

Menu: 10/10
The menu is a colorful variation on the first film's credit sequence. Nice animation, excellent use of Schifrin's musical score. Easy to navigate. No Easter Eggs found.

Extra Features: 10/10

"The Saga of the Musketeers" is a 50-minute documentary on the making of these great films. The new documentary contains interviews with Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee, Raquel Welch, Michael York, Frank Finlay, and the younger Salkind. There are nice tributes to cast deceased members Oliver Reed, Spike Milligan and Roy Kinnear. The death of Kinnear was especially sad. He died in a horseback riding accident during the filming of "The Return of the Musketeers." I recently spoke to publicist Quinn Donahue while he was in Memphis during the filming of Alejandro Inarritu's "21 Grams." Mr. Donahue worked on all three Musketeer films. He was the one who drove Kinnear to the hospital. Mr. Donahue told me "I was the only one around who spoke Spanish (the movies were filmed in Spain) so I drove him to the hospital. He had a broken pelvis. He was conscious the whole way. We checked him in. He seemed to be doing all right. We were all shocked. He took a turn for the worse and died. I guess the injury was too much of a shock for his body. He was a dear funny man."

This new documentary also includes behind the scenes footage of the actors practicing their sword skills. Christopher Lee provides some funny stories concerning the injuries inflicted on the cast members.

The documentary also tells the tale of the decision to release the film as two movies and the lawsuits that followed. The actors were paid for one movie, but the producers got two films out of them. Very tricky these Salkinds!

The DVD also includes a 7-minute featurette that was produced at the time of the original theatrical release. The featurette is cool for historical value. Much of what is in it is dealt with in the new documentary.

The cover is embossed with the image of the four lead actors.Anchor Bay produces the best talent bios of any DVD company in the worlds. There are bios on the director and all of the stars. Anchor Bay's bios are multiple screens of text covering the person's life and career. You have a lot of reading to do with these bios, considering the long and colorful careers of all involved.

The trailers and TV spots have not been restored. You can use them to see how good the movies look. There is also a lengthy poster, publicity and still photo gallery. The collector's case folds out to four panels which are beautifully designed with photographs of the stars.

The Final Word:
This collector's edition is a must have DVD. Great films, performances, extras. Well worth the price of admission. Maybe Anchor Bay will release the third Musketeer film down the road so we can really enjoy "The Complete Musketeers."

ALAMO, THE (1960)

Alamo, The (1960)
Disc Details

Distributor:
MGM

List Price: $14.95

Running Time: 162 minutes

Special Features:
Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Documentary: John Wayne's The Alamo
Original theatrical trailer

Video Format:
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)

Language Tracks:
English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0) Mono
French (Dolby Digital 2.0)Stereo Surround

Subtitles:
English, Spanish, French

Closed Captions:
Yes

Casing:
1-disc Keep Case

Director(s): John Wayne
Movie rating: 7/10
DVD rating: 7/10
DVD Release Date: 12/19/2000
Running Time: 162 minutes
Rating: NR
Film & Disc Review, Alamo, The
reviewed: 2004-03-19

MGM is getting ready for Father's Day. If you dad is an action kind of guy, MGM should have an affordable DVD for him at your local video store. Among the many great titles being released or re-released for this Father's Day are "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly," "Bull Durham," "The Great Escape" and John Wayne's "The Alamo."

John Wayne spent nearly 10-years and his entire fortune bringing this epic film to the screen. Like Mel Gibson, John Wayne pursued his goal with a single-minded fervor. Wayne produced, directed and starred in the epic Western, which was honored with 7 Oscar nominations. Like Gibson, John Wayne was the subject of public ridicule for his film. The critics unjustly panned the film. The $12,000,000.00 film didn't make its money back on its US release. The film was further stigmatized by an outrageous Oscar Campaign that called the Academy's patriotism into question. Wayne became a man possessed. It took a truly tasteless Ad-Campaign by Chill Wills to wake the director up. Despite all of the controversy, "The Alamo" is a deft action film. Though the early dramatic scenes are a bit wooden, Wayne was rightly praised for his handling of the 13-day Battle of the Alamo.

The film features an all star cast. John Wayne plays Davy Crockett. Laurence Harvey appears as Col. Travis. Richard Widmark steals the movie as Jim Bowie. Richard Boone plays Sam Houston. A multitude of John Wayne movie regulars appear in character roles. Wayne's film is an ultra patriotic take on the Battle of the Alamo. Though all of the defenders lost their lives, they delayed the march of Santa Anna long enough for Sam Houston to later defeat him and the Mexican Army. Thus the Republic of Texas was born.

The Disc
Good movie, picture, sound and extras.

Picture Quality: 7/10
Not a bad transfer considering the movie is almost as old as me. MGM cleaned up the print quite a bit. There are some artifacts. The colors are rich, but not filthy rich! Some washout. The edges are a bit soft. Some shimmering and delineation problems here and there. Overall, a good transfer though. It would be nice to see the entire film restored, including the 33 minutes of footage missing from the director's cut.

Sound Quality: 7/10
While there is no loss of dialogue, the sound is a bit flat and tinny. Good use of the surround sound features during the last half of the film. The massive battle scenes take up half of the films running time. There are a few great sound effects where the cannon will fire on one side of the room and explode on the other.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs Found on Disc.

Extra Features: 7/10
The DVD includes a 45-minute documentary about John Wayne's quest to get this movie made. Son, Michael shares his memories of the experience. The documentary includes an number of interviews with several familiar faces from the film. I especially enjoyed the segment dealing with director John Ford's unexpected and prolonged visit to the set.

The DVD also includes the film's original theatrical trailer.

The Final Word:

I'd like to see the original director's cut restored on DVD. It would be outstanding if MGM would invest the money in that part of their history.

On the other hand, I can't dismiss this DVD. You get a lot more for your money with "The Alamo" than you do with many other higher priced DVDs.

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957)

Affair to Remember: Studio Classics Collection, An (1957)
Disc Details

Distributor:
Fox Home Entertainment

List Price: $19.98

Running Time: 119 minutes

Special Features:
Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Commentary by Singer Marni Nixon and Film Historian Joseph McBride
AMC Backstory: "An Affair to Remember"
Movietone Newsreel (Shipboard Premiere)
Theatrical Trailer
Still Gallery
Studio Classics Sneak Peek

Video Format:
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)

Language Tracks:
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles:
English, Spanish

Closed Captions:
Yes

Casing:
1-disc Keep Case

Director(s): Leo McCarey
Movie rating: 8/10
DVD rating: 8/10
DVD Release Date: 02/04/2003
Running Time: 119 minutes
Rating: NR
Film & Disc Review, Affair to Remember: Studio Classics Collection, An
reviewed: 2003-02-04

Leo McCarey's "An Affair to Remember" ranks near the top of the Chick Flick Pantheon. Being the sentimental sap that I am, I loved this movie. The best date I ever had included the movie "Sleepless in Seattle." Any fan of that movie knows that "An Affair to Remember" played a big part in the film. With good reason. Except for "Sleepless in Seattle," you'd be hard pressed to find a movie as romantic as "An Affair to Remember."

Nicky Ferrante (Cary Grant) is a suave, elegant playboy engaged to a wealthy heiress. Terry McCay (Deborah Kerr) is an ex-lounge singer engaged to a wealthy business men. Both are with their partners for support. They meet on board a cruise ship headed to New York from Europe. The two find themselves falling in love with each other. They must be careful on board the ship because the press is following playboy Nicky looking for a scoop. As the ship lands in New York, the lovers make a pact. They will take six months to get their respective houses in order. If they feel the same, they will meet on top of the Empire State Building. On her way to the Empire State Building, Terry is stuck by tragedy.

McCarey's film is one of those lust, Technicolor films produced by Hollywood in the 50s to draw people back into the theaters after the advent of TV. Milton Krasner's photography was honored with an Oscar nomination. The film also garnered nominations for Best Costume Design, Score and Song. A beautiful as the actual images are, the magic of "An Affair to Remember" comes from the great chemistry between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Both shine. Unlike many other romantic screen parings, you have no trouble believing these folks are in love. When Kerr doesn't show up at the Empire State Building, Grant's pain is palpable.

The Disc
One of the all-time great tear-jerkers. Excellent picture, sound and extras.

Picture Quality: 10/10

Excellent restoration and transfer. The widescreen format is a revelation. For years, this film was not available in its original form. McCary's framing is wonderful. He used the widescreen palate like a painter.

No artifacts, pixilation or delineation problems. The colors are well saturated with little or no bleeding.

Sound Quality: 10/10
The score was remastered in 2.0 Stereo. Hugo Freidhofer's Oscar nominated score surrounds you with nice balance between the ranges. Deep bass mixes with full, rich highs. No loss of dialogue.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs Found on Disc.

Extra Features: 8/10
FOX has answered one of my wishes with the type of extras they are including on their Studio Classics collection. They are making use of contemporary PR materials to give these older films flavor and historical perspective. They have also included commentary tracks by film historians and surviving cast and crew.

The commentary track on "An Affair to Remember" is by film historian Jim McBride and singer Marni Nixon. Ms. Nixon was a Broadway singer and actress who did the on screen singing for many films. She sang Natalie Wood's songs in the film version of "West Side Story." Ms. Nixon relates her experiences on the film, sharing her memories of Grant, Kerr, McCarey and others. Jim McBride examines the film's composition, theme, acting and backstage history.

American Movie Classics has an ongoing series called "Backstory," during which they spend an hour examining the history of a particular film. The DVD includes the excellent episode covering "An Affair to Remember."

The DVD also includes the original theatrical trailer, a photo gallery and the "Movietone Newsreel" from the film's premiere about the S.S. Constitution.

Romantic menu design based on the movie's promotional materials. Easy to navigate. No Easter Eggs found.

The Final Word:

This fourth release in the Studio Classics collection is another keeper. Film fans should rejoice at FOX's decision to showcase the classic films of the past. Please support this series, so other studios may follow suite and showcase their older classics.

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954)

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Special Edition ) (1954)
Disc Details

Distributor:
Walt Disney Home Video

List Price: $29.99

Running Time: 127 minutes

Special Features:
Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Audio commentary with director Richard Fleischer and film historian Rudy Behlmer
Animated short: "Grand Canyonscope"
Documentary: "The Making Of '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea'"
Featurette: Jules Verne and Walt Disney: Explorers of the Imagination
Featurette: The Humboldt Squid: A Real Sea Monster
Featurette: Movie Merchandise
Featurette: The Musical Legacy of Paul Smith
Featurette: Monsters Of The Deep
Lost Treasures: The Sunset Squid Sequence
1954 Disney Studio Album
Production Gallery
Advertising Gallery
Touring The Nautilus
Storyboard-to-Scene Comparison
Unused Animation
Cast bios
Screenplay Excerpt: Nemo's Death
Theatrical Trailer
Radio Spots
Peter Lorre's ADR tracks
Captain Nemo's Organ Music

Video Format:
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.40:1)

Language Tracks:
English (Dolby Digital 5.1)

Subtitles:
English

Closed Captions:
Yes

Casing:
2-disc Keep Case

Director(s): Richard Fleischer
Movie rating: 10/10
DVD rating: 10/10
DVD Release Date: 05/20/2003
Running Time: 127 minutes
Rating: G
Film & Disc Review, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Special Edition )
reviewed: 2003-05-20

These days, you can release a DVD with a five-photo gallery, two text screens of production notes and a commentary track by the film's caterer's poolboy and call it a "Special Edition." If you want to see what a "Special Edition" DVD SHOULD BE, check out Disney's newest release "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Special Edition." Wow!

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. My dad took my brother Vic and I to the Loew's State theater in downtown Memphis. The year was 1962 and Memphis still had a number of ornate movie palaces in existence.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" remains the grandest live-action adventure film from the Walt Disney Studio. The 1954 film has lost none of its excitement or charm after nearly 50 years. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" boasts excellent performances, a great script, top-notch direction and outstanding special effects.

Based on the novel by Jules Verne, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" tells the story of a hunt for a sea monster wreaking havoc in the pacific ocean. Turns out that there is no sea monster. Instead, the anti-war activist of his day Captain Nemo (James Mason) leads his crew of submariners aboard his nuclear submarine The Nautilus on a campaign to sink war ships of any flag or nation.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" stars an all-star cast. James Mason turns in an intense performance as the twisted and troubled Captain Nemo. Star Kirk Douglas is Ned Land, a harpooner who represents the common man. Paul Lucas (Oscar winner for Watch on the Rhine) stars as Professor Arronax, the French biologist who represents the voice of scientific reason. The great Peter Lorre provides comic relief as the cowardly assistant to Arronax.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" is full of memorable set pieces. The most famous scene is the battle with the giant squid. The film won the Oscar (deservedly so) for Best Special Effects. The miniature models were created by Marcel Delgado, the assistant of "King Kong" creator Willis O'Brien. Richard Fleischer's direction is impeccable. The Art Direction and Set Design also won an Oscar. Captain Nemo's submarine is still one of the most detailed and authentic fantasy vehicles ever developed for the movies.

The Disc
Great movie, picture, sound and extras. A must have DVD!

Picture Quality: 10/10
Disney remastered and restored "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" for this DVD. The picture is remarkable. The deep, rich Technicolor images hearken back to a type of movie making that doesn't exist anymore. The colors are well saturated, vivid and well delineated. Sharp image throughout the entire frame. Excellent flesh tones. No shimmering or pixilation. Even the extras look great!

Sound Quality: 10/10
From Paul Smith's hit-or-miss score to Kirk Douglas's fun song "A Whale of a Tale" to the myriad other sound effects in this movie, the sound is outstanding. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track captures all of the ambient sounds of this classic film. Deep, rich tones which are well balanced flow from your home theater system.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs Found on Disc.

Extra Features: 10/10
This DVD is loaded with some of the best extras I've ever seen or heard. The commentary track by director Fleischer and film historian Rudy Behlmer contains a ton of great information and insights into this classic Disney film.

The feature length documentary "The Making of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' is one of the best 'Making Of' documentaries I've ever seen. The 80-minute film contains footage long thought lost which was shot as the movie was produced. This archived footage (which looks great!) is intercut with new interviews with surviving cast and crewmembers including Kirk Douglas and director Richard Fleischer. This documentary is worth the cost of admission alone.

Of course, Disney doesn't stop with just this one great extra. This two-disk set contains a whole lot more. The Squid Attack was filmed differently to begin with. In the original sequence, the attack took place at sunset in calm seas. For obvious reasons, the scene was refilmed. It just didn't work. The original 35mm negatives of the "Sunset Squid" sequence were destroyed. A 16mm print was recently found, restored and mixed with the original score for this DVD. It is interesting in that it shows the mechanical beast in more detail. The scene doesn't work as originally shot and Disney wisely spent the extra money to reshoot the scene.

There is a montage of alternate takes that lasts for several minutes. Nothing special. The storyboard to film comparisons are quite good. The original storyboards were very detailed. This section includes the "squid attack" scene.

There are a number of galleries, which include many excellent photos. The bio section is also quite detailed. As a memorabilia fan, I enjoyed the "Movie Merchandise" featurette, which includes an interview with two collectors of just about anything you can imagine from the movie. There is a lot more to discover on this disk. I'll leave it to you to do just that.

The Final Word:

A treasure pure and simple. A classic film given the royal treatment is so richly deserves. If you've never seen "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" this is the best way to see it short of on the big screen. A must have for anyone's permanent DVD library.

ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)

All About Eve: Special Edition (1950)
Disc Details

Distributor:
Fox Home Entertainment

List Price: $19.98

Running Time: 139 minutes

Special Features:
Full frame format
Chapter selection
Audio Commentary by Celeste Holm, Christopher Mankiewicz, and author Kenneth Geist
Audio Commentary by author Sam Staggs
Documentary: AMC Backstory episode
Original Interviews with Bette Davis and Ann Baxter
Movietone Newsreel: Look Magazine Awards
Movietone Newsreel: Holiday Magazine Awards
Movietone Newsreel: 1951 Academy Awards
Movietone Newsreel: Hollywood attends premiere of "All About Eve."
Restoration Comparison

Video Format:
Full Frame (1.33:1)

Language Tracks:
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles:
English, Spanish

Closed Captions:
Yes

Casing:
1-disc Keep Case

Director(s): Joseph Mankiewicz
Movie rating: 10/10
DVD rating: 10/10
DVD Release Date: 01/14/2003
Running Time: 139 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Film & Disc Review, All About Eve: Special Edition
reviewed: 2003-01-14

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "All About Eve" is one of the ten greatest films ever made. "All About Eve" was nominated for a record number 14 Academy Awards. It won six. Fox chose "All About Eve" as the first release in their new "Studio Classics" DVD collection. As a special incentive, Fox is offering a free copy of the limited edition DVD "Sunrise" with the purchase of three Studio Classics DVDs. F. W. Murnau's "Sunrise" was the first and only recipient of the "Most Unique and Artistic Production" Oscar. (Look for my review of "Sunrise" very soon.)

Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is the brightest star on Broadway. The dynamic, confident and talented actress is about to turn 40. For the first time in her life, Margo is scared. Margo's lover is Ben Sampson (Gary Merrill), a stage director leaving for Hollywood. Margo also depends on her friends, playwright Lloyd Richards and his wife Karen (Hugh Marlowe and Celeste Holm). Margo is about to make a new friend.

Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is a small town girl with stars in her eyes. She saves and scrimps so she can see every performance of Margo's latest play. Every night, she stands at the stage door to catch a glimpse of her idol. One night, Karen invites Eve into Margo's dressing room. Eve quickly enchants Margo and her friends with her naive charm and innocence. Margo doesn't realize that a deadly viper has just entered her lair.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's script still packs a powerful punch 53 years later. "All About Eve" is one of the most intelligent, brutal and humorous scripts ever written. It was the first film script to be published by a major publisher (Random House). Mankiewicz won two Oscars for "All About Eve": Best Screenplay and Best Director.

The magnificent cast is rounded out by wonderful actors in peak form. George Sanders won an Oscar as Addison DeWitt, a cynical, cold-hearted theater critic. Thelma Ritter was nominated for an Oscar as Margo's maid. Marilyn Monroe has a significant cameo as a young starlet using important men to further her career.

There is not a bad performance in "All About Eve." As good as all of the performances are, the movie belongs to Bette Davis. Bette Davis was, for my money, the greatest actress in film history. The pixie of a woman had the most incredible screen presence of any actress on screen. Bette Davis was more than a great actress; she was also a Movie Star in every sense of the word. Bette Davis got the role in "All About Eve" after Claudette Colbert ruptured a disk before shooting was to start. I can't imagine what the movie would have been like without Bette Davis. "All About Eve" resurrected Ms. Davis’s Career. One of the greatest travesties in the history of the Oscars is the fact that Davis didn't win her third Oscar for "All About Eve." It will be another travesty if you don't take advantage of FOX's new "Studio Classics" DVD series. "All About Eve" should be in the DVD library of any serious student of film. This is one of the best.

The Disc
Great movie, picture, sound, extras and price! All this for just $19.98!

Picture Quality: 10/10
"All About Eve" was restored through the joint efforts of 20th Century Fox, The Museum of Modern Art and the Academy Film Archive. "All About Eve" was one of the last films shot on nitrate stock. The restoration was done through a purely chemical process. A Master Fine Grain Positive was made by the Museum of Modern Art directly from the original nitrate negative. The picture is as close to pristine as possible. There are very few artifacts and no pixilation. The tone and texture of the images are rich and well saturated. There is great detail and delineation between the various shades in the grayscale. Milton Krasser's Black and White cinematography was nominated for an Oscar

Sound Quality: 10/10
.

"All About Eve" won the Oscar for Best Sound in 1950. While the picture was restored through photochemical processing, the original soundtrack was digitally restored by DJ Audio. Original magnetic tape recordings of the actual recording sessions from the movie's score were also transferred digitally. The sound on this DVD is excellent. Amazingly enough, the fact that this disc contains 6 audio tracks (2 commentary tracks) doesn't degrade the quality of either the sound or picture. Nice balance between the ranges. Excellent integration of the bass tones through the sub-woofer. No loss of dialogue. A crisp clear recording. I prefer the Stereo track to the Mono, but both are fine.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs Found on Disc.

Extra Features: 10/10

I have complained in the past that older movies released on DVD didn't take advantage of all of the archived footage used to publicize these films for the "extras" portion of the DVD. Somebody at FOX finally realized this. This DVD contains excellent extras.

There are four "Movietone News" features. "Movietone News" reels used to play in movie theaters before the feature presentation. These newsreels cover the premiere of "All About Eve," The Oscars, and two magazine awards ceremonies. They are great for their historical perspective. There are also interviews conducted by Newsweek Magazine with Betty Davis and Anne Baxter from the film's original publicity tour.

AMC produces a great documentary series called "Backstory." I try to catch these specials whenever I can. The AMC "Backstory" episode covering "All About Eve" is included on this disc. The episode includes archived interviews with Bette Davis, Joe Mankiewicz, Celeste Holm and Anne Baxter. It also includes new interviews with several film historians and the director's son Christopher Mankiewicz. Lots of great insights and stories about this classic movie.

Techies will enjoy the restoration comparison. The feature includes several text screens detailing the long restoration process. This is followed by a split screen comparison of the various stages of "All About Eve's" restoration.

One audio commentary track would have been good. "All About Eve" is such an important film that FOX included two tracks! The first track is by a frail sounding Celeste Holm, Christopher Mankiewicz, son of the director and Joseph L. Mankiewicz biographer Kenneth Geist. Mr. Geist gives the viewer insight into not just this film, but the complex and troubled life of Joe Mankiewicz. The second commentary track is by author Sam Staggs. Mr. Staggs wrote the book "All About 'All About Eve'." His track provides a more intensive history of the movie.

The DVD also includes the original theatrical trailer as well as sneak peeks at two more of FOX's "Studio Classics Collection": "How Green Was My Valley" and "Gentleman's Agreement."

Simple, elegant menu design. No music. The design reflects a bygone era of American filmmaking. Easy to navigate. No Easter Eggs found.

The Final Word:

FOX has put a lot of love and attention to detail into this DVD. "All About Eve" is a film you can watch over and over without it ever getting stale. If this is the detail that FOX intends to put into each of the 70 odd "Studio Classics" to be released over the next year then they are to be commended and financially supported in this effort. If you don't buy these kinds of DVDs, the studios won't produce them. That would be a shame, because this DVD is more than a great movie. It is a history lesson and a celebration of a type of film that is no longer produced.

AMERICAN FRIEND, THE (1977)

American Friend, The (1977)
Disc Details

Distributor:
Anchor Bay

List Price: $24.98

Running Time: 125 minutes

Special Features:
Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Wim Wenders and Star Dennis Hopper
Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Writer/Director Wim Wenders
Talent bios
Trailer

Video Format:
Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)

Language Tracks:
German/English/French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
German/English?French (Dolby Digital 2.0) Surround

Subtitles:
English

Closed Captions:
No

Casing:
1-disc Keep Case

Director(s): Wim Wenders
Movie rating: 7/10
DVD rating: 8/10
DVD Release Date: 01/07/2003
Running Time: 125 minutes
Rating: R
Film & Disc Review, American Friend, The
reviewed: 2003-01-07

The late 1970s was an exciting and original time for German cinema. German directors Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog and Rainer Werner Fassbinder gained worldwide acclaim for their original and gritty views of the world. Wim Wenders's "The American Friend" was released in 1977 to mixed reviews. Based on Patricia Highsmith's novel "Ripley's Game," "The American Friend" presents a very different version of the character of Tom Ripley than that of Matt Damon in "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) brokers paintings by the gifted Derwatt (legendary director Nicholas Ray: Rebel Without a Cause). Dewatt's paintings bring a pretty price because the world thinks he is dead. Ripley transports the paintings to Germany for auction. The paintings bring a good price because they are thought to be lost paintings by the late master. Ripley watches intently as the latest painting is bid on.

Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz) is a craftsman. He makes

frames for fine art. Jonathan framed Ripley's latest find. Jonathan doubts the picture's authenticity. Dewatt changed the type of blue paint he always used. No one listens to Jonathan's opinion as he is only a framer. Ripley finds out from the auctioneer that Jonathan has a terminal illness. Soon his wife will be a widow and his son an orphan. Ripley returns to his rented mansion.

Ripley finds that the house is being broken into. Turns out to be Raoul Minot (Gerard Blain), a friend from the underworld. Minot

wants to know if Ripley knows anyone who will commit a murder for money. The wheels start to turn. Ripley thinks of the dying picture framer. A plan is put into motion, which, if successful will allow Jonathan to provide for his family after he is gone. He only has to commit murder.

"The American Friend" harkens back to the film noir classics of the past. While it is an homage to those films, "The American Friend" just misses being a great film. It is a very

interesting near miss. The film presents a decent man facing a moral crisis. Jonathan is a decent man who loves his family. He also takes great pride in his work. Jonathan finds himself under the manipulative spell of an amoral charmer. Faced with his death, Jonathan must weigh the price of his immortal soul against leaving his family with a large sum of money. Ganz is superb as the conflicted husband.

The film presents several mysteries. Is Jonathan really dying?

Jonathan keeps hearing rumors that he doesn't have long to live. His doctor tells him otherwise. The scenes between Jonathan and his doctor are charged with tension. Wenders is to be lauded for having such simply staged scenes work so well. Ganz too deserves praise. His seduction by the dark side of human nature is the main reason to watch this film.

Dennis Hopper's take on Ripley is so completely different from Matt Damon's turn in "The Talented Mr. Ripley." I assume this

story takes place after the events in the newer film. Hopper's Ripley has more wear on him than Damon's Ripley. Of course, Ripley is a chameleon, so who knows who the true Ripley is. Hopper plays Ripley as a cowboy hustler. Hopper is dirtier. He is also conflicted. Ripley likes Jonathan. Ripley feels bad for pushing Jonathan through the gates of hell.

Wenders's direction is top notch. Some critics complain that the film is too long or too slow. I disagree on both counts. Ganz's

Jonathan is basically a decent man. It takes time for him to convince himself that he can commit murder. The photography by Robby Muller is outstanding. The film is painted with base colors that evoke the inner moods of the characters. Harsh green, blues and neon reds coat the film with a sense of moral decay.

The film's murder scenes are taut set pieces. One takes place on the French metro, while the other takes place on a train to

Munich. Wenders and Ganz work so well together. Wender's direction is pulsatingly tense. Ganz communicates so much with body language and facial expressions.

Wenders was influenced heavily by the directors Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray. Both directors make the most of their cameo roles as the painter and a mob boss. Gerard Blain is also quite good as the murder broker Minot. Like Ripley, Minot is affected by

Jonathan's innocence and his part in destroying it. "The American Friend" should be seen by any serious film student or fan.

The Disc
Good movie. Great picture. Good sound. Great extras.

Picture Quality: 9/10
"The American Friend" is a wonderfully composed film. The visuals are stunning. The film required multiple viewings to catch

all of the nuances. Wenders and Muller use light and colors to create a cinematic painting. A beautiful film. The transfer is outstanding. There were a few artifacts that prevented me from giving the picture a "10" rating. There is no pixilation present. There is a noticeable pause between the layers. Great delineation between lights and darks. The colors are rich and well saturated with no bleeding. Crisp picture. There is one grainy scene near the end of the film when Ripley and Jonathan await an attack by the mob.

Sound Quality: 10/10
"The American Friend" is presented in three languages at the same time. There are a few French scenes, but the majority of the film switches between English and German. I can't remember a film, which blended so many different languages so well. There is no loss of dialogue. Nice balance between the ranges. The score is composed of an eclectic selection of songs from the 60s and 70s along with Jurgen Kneiper's original material. The music accents Wenders poetic journey to Hell perfectly.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs Found on Disc.

Extra Features: 10/10
Great menu design which embraces the bold color scheme of the movie. Easy to navigate. No Easter Eggs found.

The commentary track is one of the best I've heard. Wenders and star Dennis Hopper weave wonderful tales about the making of this movie, and the great cast.

Anchor Bay, once again provides the best talent bios in the DVD universe. There are extensive bios for Wenders, Hopper and Ganz.

The trailer is interesting. There are 30-minutes of deleted scenes with commentary by Wenders. These provide insight into Wenders's style of directing. There are several extended takes in this collection. There are also several scenes with Nicholas Ray.

The Final Word:

I'm a die-hard fan of the films of the 70s. "The American Friend" was a major part of the German revolution that took place during the 70s. While Wim Wenders was not the filmmaker that Werner Herzog is, he did a great job with "The American Friend." Ignore the naysayers on this one. "The American Friend" is worth the risk. A rewarding experience for real movie fans.

Friday, December 13, 2013

ALIEN QUADRILOGY (2003)

Alien Quadrilogy (2003)
Director(s): James Cameron
Ridley Scott
David Fincher
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Movie rating: 8/10
DVD rating: 9/10
DVD Release Date: 12/02/2003
Running Time: 982 minutes
Rating: R
Disc Details

Distributor:
FOX

List Price: $0.98

Running Time: 982 minutes

Special Features:
-Widescreen anamorphic format
-Chapter selection
-9 disk fold out case
-All four theatrical versions of the "Alien" films
-"Alien" director's cut
-"Aliens" director's cut
-"Alien3" restored work print edition
-"Alien Resurection" extended version
-24-page collector's booklet

Alien (1979)
-Commentary by Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Terry Rawlings Sigorney Waever, Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt
-Nine new documentaries
-Deleted scenes marker
-First Draft of Screenplay by Dan O'Bannon
-Ridleygrams (original thumbnails & notes)
-Storyboard archive
-The Art of Alien
-Sigourney Weaver's screen test with optional commentary by Ridley Scott
-Visual effects gallery
-A Multi-Angle Scene Study on the Chestburster sequence with optional commentary by Ridley Scott and the production team
Aliens (1986)
-Commentary by James Cameron, Michael Biehn, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, Christopher Henn, Lance Henriksen, Gale Anne Hurd, Pat McClung, Bill Paxton, Dennis Skotak, Robert Skotak and Stan Winston
-Deleted scene marker
-Nine new featurettes
-Original Treatment: by James Cameron
-Cast Portait gallery
-Production Gallery
-Continuity Polaroids
-Weapons and Vehicles gallery
-Stan Winston's Workshop Gallery
-Visual Effects Gallery
-Multi-angle videomatics with optional commentary by Miniature Effect Supervisor, Pat McClung
-Easter egg: A Boy and His Power Loader
Alien 3 (1992)
-Brand new commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thompson, Editor Terry Rawlings, VFX Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, and actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen
-Nine new featurettes
-The Art of Aceron
-Production Gallery
-Furnace Construction
-ADI Workshop
-E.E.V. Scan Multi-Angle Vignette
-Visual Effects
-Storyboard archives
Alien Resurrection (1997)
-Brand new commentary by Director Jean Pierre Jeunet, Herve Schneid, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Pitof, Sylvain Despretz, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon and Leland Orser
-An introduction by Director Jean Pierre Jeunet: extended cut only
-First Draft Screenplay by Joss Whedon
-11 new featurettes
-Test Footage
-ADI Effects
-Mark Carro Photo Gallery
-The Art of Resurrection
-Storyboards
-Pre-Visualizations multi-angle rehearsals
-Production gallery
-ADI Workshop
-ADI Test Footage
-Special Shoot promotional photo archive
-Easter egg: Alien extra
-Bonus disc
ALIEN:
-Featurette: Alien Legacy
-Featurette: Alien Evolution
-Featurette: Experience in Terror
-Ridley Scott Q&A
-Alien Laser Disc Archive
ALIENS:
-Aliens Laser Disc Archive
ALIEN 3:
-6 trailers, 7 TV spots
ALIEN RESURRECTION:
-Theatrical teaser, 2 theatrical trailers, 4 TV spots
-Bob Burns Alien Collection
-Dark Horse Still Gallery
-DVD-ROM (script to screen comparison)

Video Format:
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)

Language Tracks:
English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English (DTS)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)

Subtitles:
English

Closed Captions:
Yes

Casing:
9-disc Fold-out Case

Film & Disc Review, Alien Quadrilogy
reviewed: 2003-12-02

The first film to terrify me was "It! The Terror From Beyond Space." I saw it when I was a preschooler. Simple plot. Take a crew of astronauts and stick them on a space ship with an alien creature that wants to kill them. Great premise.

Cut to 1979. I saw "Alien" in Phoenix after a day of floating down the Salt River Project. Too much sun resulted in sever burns on my legs. I had a fever and was shivering. At least I thing the shivers came from the sunburn. "Alien" took the premise of "It! The Terror From Beyond Space" and added great special effects, a smart script, wonderful cast and outstanding direction by Ridley Scott. It was love at first sight. In "Alien" the crew of the space tanker Nostromo is given orders to set down on a space rock to investigate a possible alien life form. The crew meets the alien and a franchise is born. Sigorney Weaver garners an Oscar nomination for her star-making turn as Ripley, the badest space babe to ever grace the screen.

Cut to 1986. This time I'm in my 1979 Camaro Z-28. My oldest daughter is two weeks old. She sits in the back seat as my first wife and I watch "Aliens" at a drive-in theater in Las Vegas. James Cameron did the impossible. He took my favorite sci-fi film and one-upped it! "This Time It's War" the ads proclaimed. "Aliens" became an instant classic. The perfect synthesis of the sci-fi/horror and war genres. Set 57 years after the original film, "Aliens" returns Ripley to the source of her greatest fear. The planet she landed on in the first film has been colonized. All communication with the colony has been cut off. Ripley is sent in with some very badass colonial marines. Let the games begin.

Time moves on. Cut to 1992. Once again I'm in Las Vegas. This time it is a vacation with the person I thought would become my second wife. Time out from the gambling tables to check out "Alien3." David Fincher's film is flawed, bleak and depressing. A major let down after "Aliens." I am angry that those who survived the second film are killed in the opening moments of the third. All save Ripley. Set on an outer space prison planet, "Alien3" was worth seeing more than once only for Charles Dutton's performance. While in college, I waited on Mr. Dutton at "Cafe Max" in Memphis. I told him that I had seen the movie three times. The second two viewings were to study his great performance.

Time passages. It is 1997. I'm with my the person who did become my second wife. The previews for "Alien Resurrection" looked cool. The fourth film revives the long dead Ripley. She is cloned as her body contains the beast from the 3rd film. While "Resurrection" isn't a great film, it is an improvement over the third. Except for the ending. A very bizarre ending indeed. The film does include a couple of classic sequences though. The underwater scene is one of the best in the entire series.

Thursday, December 4 of this year. I get home from day four of my murder trial (I'm the lawyer, not the defendant). I find the Alien Quadrilogy sitting on the kitchen table. Excited as I am, I don't even open it. Must finish the trial. Saturday morning the jury returns the verdict. (I win.) 14 hours of sleep later, I tear into the long-awaited DVD. I have seen the director's cuts of the first two films. I want to see David Fincher's work print of "Alien3." I am amazed to discover a vastly superior film to the one released in theaters. Fincher's work print contains entire sub-plots and sequences removed from the theatrical print. I can't imagine why FOX took the film away from him and released the mess they did. To my regret, the DVD doesn't shed any light on the matter. There is no commentary track by Fincher. I then turn to "Resurrection." Director Jeunet was happy with his print. He reluctantly agreed to have an alternate ending and beginning and a couple of other deleted scenes put in for the DVD set. The alternate ending is nice if only because if pictures Paris in a state of utter destruction. The alternate beginning belongs in "Space Balls" rather than in this series. I see why the director was happy with his print.

The Disc
An amazing DVD set. Excellent picture, sound and extras. The movies vary in quality. The first two are classics, while the 3rd and 4th are flawed. However, the work print version of the third film is a real treasure. The only thing missing from this collection is a commentary track by David Fincher.

Picture Quality: 10/10
FOX did an excellent job of restoring all four movies. The same goes for the special editions. The deleted footage was restored and color matched with the theatrical footage. The new scenes are seemlessly intercut with the previously released footage. For the work print of "Alien3," FOX used CGI technology to create the alien effects that were not done originally. Some of the CGI effects are not as good as it would have been had the effects been done originally, but I'm happy for the technology. This allows us to see what might have been had Mr. Fincher not had the movie taken away from him. Like I said before and will say again: Fincher's work print is the real treasure of this collection. Excellent, well-saturated colors. No delineation problems. Artifacts are nowhere to be found. Sharp image all the way to the edges. I didn't notice any shimmering.

Sound Quality: 9/10
The sound is as good as it could be. The only reason the sound doesn't rate a 10 is because FOX didn't restore the soundtrack for the deleted footage on Fincher's work print. In a couple of scenes it is very hard to hear. To FOX's credit, they are up front about the problems with the soundtrack and provide subtitles during those scenes. Otherwise the sound is rich and nicely balanced. Excellent use of the surround sound feature. Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful score never sounded better. Well, maybe when it was played live!

Easter Eggs:
According to Amazon.com there are two Easter Eggs. I found one. Please let me know where the other one is. I looked and looked. On Disk Four there is an Egg that leads to "A Boy and His Power Loader." This is an interview with Vin Ling, the film student who built a working model of a power loader on a dare and ended up working for James Cameron. It is the kind of story that gives hope to nerds everywhere hoping to break into the business.

Amazon.com claims there is an Easter Egg on one of the two "Alien Resurrection" disks entitled "Alien Extra." Please let me know if you find it so I can update this review!

Extra Features: 10/10
There are so many extras that it would take unlimited bandwidth to cover them all. There are more documentaries and featurettes on this DVD than on any other boxed set I've ever seen. They threw in everything but the kitchen sink and a David Fincher commentary track.

There are two disks devoted to each film. The first disk includes the theatrical and extended versions of the particular film with commentary tracks for each version. The second disk contains documentaries, photo galleries and full screenplays for the movies. The disk is divided into Pre-Production, Production and Post Production phases. There is a navigation choice on the supplement disk that allows you to view all of the documentaries without stopping, to view all of the photo galleries and to view all of the art galleries. Suffice to say, everything you ever wanted to know about the "Alien" series can be found in this set. (Except for a David Fincher commentary!)

The commentary tracks are great. Each version of the films includes a track. (I won't say it, but I'm thinking it!)

The 9th disk contains all of the supplemental materials for past editions and from the Laser Disk editions. It also includes all of the Theatrical trailers and TV spots for each film.

FOX has given us everything old and powered it up with a whole lot of new!

The Final Word:

By far the best DVD set this year. Maybe of any year. If you are like EI's Stephen Wong and hate the 4th film, you will still want this DVD. A steal at twice the price. The work print of "Alien3" is a real find. You stick this in your honey's stocking and there will be no doubt that you love them.